AusIndustry Specific Issue Guidance – Farming R&D

AusIndustry Specific Issue Guidance – Farming R&D

Georgia King-Siem discusses the new specific issue guidance for farming R&D released by AusIndustry.

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Director, Tax

KPMG Australia

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Earlier in the week, AusIndustry released four new specific issue guidances. One of those concerns farming based research and development (R&D) activities.

Overall the guidance focuses on the importance of robust experimental design with clearly defined parameters and a testable hypothesis as a way to reduce the number of unnecessarily large trials.

For those undertaking farming R&D activities, clearly defined experimental parameters will assist companies to identify eligible R&D activities whose significant purpose is the generation of new knowledge, and to avoid conducting unnecessarily large experiments on a “whole farm” basis. Companies are expected to be able to clearly identify and scientifically justify the scale of each experiment and AusIndustry will use this as an indicator of a systematic progression of work.

AusIndustry notes that experimentation applied to a whole farm does not increase the validity of the results, assuming the trial plot is big enough for a valid sample size. It also implies that there is an inherent level of commercial confidence in the experimental treatment which is contrary to the requirement that the experiment has a significant purpose of creating new knowledge, and that the significant purpose of a whole farm trial is for production.

Companies should clearly articulate the scientific unknowns; testing of a proven solution in a new environment or on a new crop is unlikely to be considered eligible R&D by AusIndustry. Companies should also take care to identify specific experiments and activities that directly support and separate them from routine agricultural activities.

Finally, supporting activities are likely to relate to the production of goods or services and will therefore be subject to the dominant purpose test. Consequently, companies should be able to demonstrate that the dominant purpose of supporting the core R&D activity was held at the time the activity was conducted.

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